Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Department of Health
Hospital Waiting Lists
584. To ask the Minister for Health the status of the scoliosis waiting list; if there is a waiting list for treatment; if so, if the waiting list is being addressed; if not, the reason; if there is a facilities shortage; and if there is a funding shortage relating to same. [43387/20]
I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for treatment for scoliosis, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic,Children’s Health Ireland had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity between March and May of this year. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.
Physical distancing measures and Infection Prevention and Control requirements have a material impact on the available physical space to deliver all hospital services.
Despite these challenges, by December 4th, Children’s Health Ireland had carried out 304 scoliosis procedures, 150 of which were spinal fusions, 25 fewer than the same period last year. 154 other spinal procedures were carried out, 27 fewer than last year.
Children’s Health Ireland has advised my Department that as of 4 December, there were 120 patients on the spinal fusion waiting list, an increase of 21 compared to the start of the year. There were 74 patients on the waiting list for other spinal procedures, which is a decrease of 10 patients since the start of 2020.
Children’s Health Ireland is exploring initiatives to increase access to scoliosis services, such as transferring additional patients to the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh for treatment. The National Treatment Purchase Fund is trying to source additional capacity in Private Hospitals.
In recent years there has been an increased investment in paediatric orthopaedics and scoliosis services, which has improved access to surgery and outpatient appointments. In 2018 Children’s Health Ireland (CHI; previously the Children’s Hospital Group) was provided with an additional €9 million in funding to address paediatric orthopaedic waiting lists, including the provision of scoliosis services. Scoliosis activity accounts for 20% of overall orthopaedic activity across CHI.
This funding supported the recruitment of approximately 60 WTE in 2018 and 2019 to enable the expansion of paediatric orthopaedic services including scoliosis services. The posts relate to the multi-disciplinary team at diagnosis, pre-assessment, during surgery in theatre, and post operatively. The majority of posts were allocated to each hospital in 2018.
Children's Health Ireland has also advised that a General Orthopaedic Surgeon, based at CHI Crumlin and Tallaght sites, took up post in Q3, 2020. This surgeon will help address waiting times for children for general orthopaedic outpatient appointments, including scoliosis.